Sailing Malacka Strait: probably the most relaxed sailing ever

The Western beach of Ko Miang. The boat is on the mooring, to the right. 
In the beginning of March 2019, I took the chance to crew on a fifty-foot Tasheen, from Malaysia and Westwards. I was hoping to go through Malacka Strait, out to Andaman Sea and then across the Indian Ocean towards Sri Lanka or Maldives. The crossing plans turned out to be a bit too ambitious, as the skipper wanted to keep things simple and chill. So I ended up doing another route, through the Western part of Malacka Strait and further Northwest - including visiting a 5-star marina resort, and sailing up to the beautiful islands off Thailand's South and West coast.

Exotic island hopping in Andaman Sea
The trip in short: to start with, we spent quite a lot of time in beautiful Rebak Marina in Langkawi. Apart from all the 5 star facilities, they had a pool and 2 gyms, which I used frequently. I also could go for morning runs, despite the heat, which I much appreciated during these days of anticipation. We had a magnificent celebration of the Cologne Carnival, together with fancy costumes, crazy German music and loads of fun (this actually cost us another day of sailing as everyone was very broken the day after).

Taking a morning run around  Pulau Rebak Besar island. 

The marina facilities include a pool with a swim-up bar. Yes, they have happy-hours. No wonder so many boaties end up getting stuck here... 
Finally, we cast off! As we moved towards the West, we reached the first national park islands of the many we'd visit. It was a lumpy night at a buoy in north Tarutao. The swell caused some discomfort, so we cast off in the night and headed Northwest.

Island hopping, continued!
The next stop was Ko Rok, where the French Survivor series were filmed. We stayed there for the night, had a BBQ on board and celebrated the International Women's Day (together with our international women crew).

View of the Survivor beach from the boat.
We continued to Northwest, stopping over at Ko Ha Yai to have a refreshing swim in the afternoon heat.

Check out the boat to the right of the rock, to understand the size of it.
Next stop was Phi Phi Le, known from movie "The Beach". The mooring happened to be too close to the stopping line for the longtail boats, and we got stuck with the rudder during the night. Fortunately, no damage was caused and we could easily get off the rope.

Approaching Phi Phi Leh, also known as the island with "The Beach".
Approach to Phi Phi Le.
We decided to refuel in Ao Chalong and head forth towards Similan Islands. We spent a couple of days there, exploring all the Similans including the northernmost islands of Koh Bon, which is not part of the group, but is worth to experience, with its blow-hole cave and beautiful snorkeling. The Similans were amazing, but the beaches became crowded between 8 and 15, due to speedboats coming from Phuket over the day. Crowds of Russians and Asians were just everywhere - but in the sunsets and sunrises there was literally nobody on these beautiful beaches.

Beaches at Similan islands are amazing - when the tourists are not there.

Sunset at Similans.

Apparently, there is an initiative to limit the number of tourists visiting the islands. I do support this approach, as I have witnessed the impact the tourist crowds have on the pristine environment. However, the government rarely distinguishes between the speedboats with their mass tourism, and the yachties who are far less invasive. I hope the new regulations will not affect sailing boats.

Color of water in Similan Islands.
Now, to sum up the trip as a whole. For me, this was not much of a nautical exercise, neither was it a question of endurance. The experience was of an entirely different kind, compared to when I usually sail. Sure, we had a couple of longer passages with night shifts, but there was nothing difficult or challenging. And that was the real challenge. The philosophical question: what is sailing, and why do I do it?

Warm and light winds stroking the genoa. Easy seas.
The hardest point for me to digest was that sailing can be extremely pleasant, very relaxed and beautiful, and does not need to mean challenging conditions or hard work. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. Sure, I've had most beautiful moments when sailing around the world, but in the end there is always more hard work than relaxation. This trip was the opposite.

Relaxing? Maybe I could learn that, too?
It's not that I don't enjoy enjoying myself! Even though I live in Lutheran Sweden, I do love to pamper myself, and have a few mindful moments just enjoying life. I think the bottom line is that I've primed myself to always push me to outer limits, or at least towards getting physically or mentally tired. I spend my days trying to get the most out of time and resources, and am very result-oriented. Since time is usually the limiting factor, I try to do everything as effectively as possible, making the most out of the day or the hour. My patience is not my best-trained muscle. So, leisure sailing with no particular challenges was quite foreign.

All the amazing beauty and tranquility, waiting to be taken in and appreciated

Precious moments. Turquoise water, resting at a mooring, still waters and happy crew.
So after doing a lot of thinking, I guess that was the lesson to learn, the ultimate challenge for myself: to start making sure I enjoy life too, not only push myself beyond the comfort zone. Stretching limits all the time may be great, but having a nice sailing vacations on some of the most beautiful locations in the world is quite nice, too.

Why do I do this? Who am I even? Many questions...
I promise not to linger in these thoughts too long, as the next sailing leg is across Tasman Sea, which will definitely be a couple of weeks of challenges and struggle against my limitations. Nevertheless, it's the contrast in life that really makes us appreciate what we do and what we have. So I am extremely happy and grateful for this trip, the opportunity to be aboard that journey, and - of course - for meeting the amazing people I got to share the experience with: Grant, the skipper and owner of the yacht, and the two other crew, Alexa and Patricia. I had an unforgettable time, and would love to sail further. Now, it's time to go home, there's some hard work awaiting - before the next leg can be sailed. Fair winds!

Kayakers and boaters reaching into that sunset, as seen from The Beach.